An article in L'Osservatore Romano has put paid to stories that Pope Benedict's red shoes are made by Prada but fashion commentators say that the pontiff's liturgical outfit tastes are "very 2008".
The Times Online quotes the Vatican paper as categorically denying reports the Pope's shoes were a Prada product, saying this was "of course false".
According to Vatican sources the Pope's shoes are made by a Novara cobbler, Adriano Stefanelli, who makes them from calf or kid for the winter and nappa leather for the summer.
Papal shoe repairs are carried out by Antonio Arellano, a Peruvian shoemaker in the Borgo, the medieval quarter next to St Peter's.
The article, on "Ratzinger's Liturgical Vestments", was written by Juan Manuel de Prada, the noted Spanish writer and author of The Tempest, who is not related to the fashion company.
De Prada said that the image of the German born Pope as concerned with "frivolity" was at odds with the truth, which was that he was a "simple and sober" man.
It was true that Pope Benedict paid a great deal of attention to his clothing, but only because of its liturgical significance.
"The Pope is not dressed by Prada but by Christ," he said.
The Pope had revived traditional papal headgear, from the fur trimmed red medieval caumaro he wears at Christmas to the wide brimmed red saturno, or "Saturn hat" he has been wearing in the current heat wave in Rome. These had been worn by previous Popes, as had the Renaissance fur trimmed velvet cape or mozzetta.
Vatican watchers nonetheless noted that these hats and outfits have not been used since the days of Pope John XXIII, who died in 1963. Benedict's predecessor, John Paul II, was usually seen in the same pair of well worn brown shoes, and invariably wore simple outfits such as a basic white cassock and white gold trimmed sash, although in winter he tended to don a crimson wool cloak trimmed with gold braid.
Rome residents recall that as a cardinal Benedict was austere rather than flamboyant, and used to cross St Peter's Square from his office to his flat wearing a black beret and black overcoat and carrying a battered leather briefcase.
But as Pope, Benedict has been seen wearing Serengeti sunglasses, and is also known to have been given Geox loafers by Mario Moretti Polegato, the Geox CEO, who is a friend of Joaquin Navarro-Valls, the former papal spokesman. When he retreats to the mountains of northern Italy in the summer he wears a white baseball cap.
Not Prada, but still very 2008 (Times Online, 26/6/08)
The Pope wears Prada? That's cobblers, says the Vatican (Times Online, 26/6/08)